Thursday, December 31, 2009

Atlantic Canada and New England – Our Trip – Part III

Day 7 – New Brunswick

We got up bright and early and had a lovely breakfast at the Hunter’s Point Inn in PEI.  Although the house was only heated with a central wood stove (and the Inn was a good size), it was nice and toasty warm in the breakfast area. 

After breakfast, we hoped in the car and made our way down the western side of the island to the Confederation Bridge.  Although we’d come to PEI on the ferry, it was fastest to get back to Halifax via the bridge and New Brunswick.  It was a relatively clear day, and we managed to get some good pictures of the bridge.  It was quite a long ride over (~25 min) from PEI to NB.


Since we only had a day to drive through NB to get to Halifax, we made only a few stops. 

The first was at a series of dunes, where the guidebook claimed lots of pure white sand.  Just as a funny side note, when we got to NB, we saw lots of moose signs which seemed (and perhaps this was only my imagination) to portray the moose as a giant (aka 2x larger than a car).  You can see for yourself in the photo below.


From the picture of the bridge, you can see how reddish brown the sand is for the most part there, so we decided to drive over and see a different set of beaches on the opposite coast.  Turned out they were more like the usual US east coast beach color, but still pretty none the less.  What was striking was how windy (and therefore cold) it was on the north coast of NB.  Surprisingly, there were still people at the visitor’s center and we got some information before heading out to walk on the boardwalk on the dunes and through the neighboring woods.  The park was called La Dune de Boutouche.

We spent the morning at the dunes and headed into the town of Moncton, NB for lunch.  It was rather a sad little college town and after not finding anywhere of note to each, defaulted to Tim Hortons.  By the end of the trip, I was a bit tired of TH’s.  Coffee and donuts can only take you so far in the morning…

On our way out of New Brunswick to Nova Scotia, we stopped at a National Heritage Site that was a militarily strategic site (to whomever held it at the given time) where on the bluff one could see both provinces.  Although it was closed, we could still drive in and walk about the park, as a small film was being shot at the park that day.  When ES and I asked one of the crew what it was about, we were told “short, historical film.”  Perhaps coming to a museum near you.

We hopped back in the car and headed on our way to back to Nova Scotia.


We’d tried to go to Bay of Fundy National Park in the morning on our way from PEI.  Unfortunately, the tides were against us and it was high tide right before 12.  We’d not have seen any of the “famous” Bay of Fundy sites on the NB side, so we tried our luck on the Nova Scotia side.  One of the best places to see the tides of the Bay of Fundy was at the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Joggins.  We were excited to find our way here with an hour of time to browse the museum and wander down to the beach below.  It was pretty empty (one of the last days of the season it was open) and one of the staff walked through with us giving us the highlights of the collection.  It’s claim to fame is that it’s home to the world’s oldest reptile fossils.  Lots of fossils just along the cliffs, which we could easily see from the beach and in the museum itself.  Quite a treat.  When we headed outside, it was a little under an hour closest to low tide and and the water line was several kilometers back from the shore.  Indeed, the world’s most dramatic tides from high to low happen here.  It was pretty incredible.

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We watched the sunset and piled back in the car for the 2+ hours down into Nova Scotia, and stayed at a town just shy of Halifax for the night.

Day 8 – Halifax – The Museums

By week’s end, we were ready for a little city exploring and for getting out and doing a bit more walking than car touring tends to allow.  Halifax is on one big hill overlooking a bay that spills right into the ocean.  Very strategic, but also very hilly.  Interestingly enough, they had a series of tunnels that went through the city, which combined with escalators, stairs, and/or elevators, made the trip swift and much preferred to the very cold outdoors (one of the drawbacks of going in October). 


We visited the Maritime Museum, the Immigration Museum, and a few various landmarks along the Halifax harbor (runs 2+ kilometers along the shore).  Although it was chilly and windy, we kept going inside enough to things that we didn’t become completely frozen.

Pictures of the Maritime Museum.  We saw the 3-D “Titantic” movie.  Ok, but not really worth the extra $$ to see it. 

Pictures of the Immigration Museum: (note – although the guys in the photo at the mocked up immigration desk doesn’t look happy at the fact I’ve just taken his picture, I did ask first…).

Pictures along the water and near the waterfront area:

We ended the day at the Wooden Monkey – a very yummy restaurant right across the street from our hotel (The Prince George).  Although not normally a fan of the Manhattan variety of chowder, this was made from all fresh and local ingredients and was heavenly.  ES had a chicken salad with pita.  All of it was homemade and really good.  So good, in fact, that we broke our usual rule of only eating someplace once so that we keep trying new ones.  We went back the next night, too.

Day 9 – Halifax – The Citadel and Victorian Gardens

It was still a pretty cold and miserable outside (and raining off and on), but we ventured out (and up) to the Citadel.  Like other Canadian Citadels (we’ve been to the one in Quebec City as well), this one was star shaped and up on the highest part of the city.  Unlike the one in Quebec, this is decommissioned and is now operated as a park.  We hiked up the stairs and got there early enough so that we saw the museum there in relative quietness (aka before the tour busses arrived en mass).  A woman was walking through the exhibits at the same pace we were just behind us.  ES mentioned something to me, and she spoke up that she was a little girl during the war (we were at the WWII section of the exhibits). It was quite interesting hearing her perspective, as she was now a Canadian, but was originally from Britain. 

We saw the changing of the guards and didn’t quite make it through the now throngs of people to hear the noon day gun fire, but we sure did hear it.  We saw staff members plug their ears, so we took a cue and did the same.  Good thing – it was loud even with our ears covered. 

The surrounding view of the city was pretty amazing from the top, even on a cold and grey gloomy day.

We took a quick lunch break to eat down along the water front at the famous Saltys.  I have hand breaded fried clams.  Not normally one to each much fried food, but these were a treat.  I’ve never had fresh clams prepared this way and they were really good.

After lunch, headed back up the hill to the Public Gardens.  They’d been designated so since the 1800’s.  Thankfully, they were still open for the year and we strolled around the grounds.  We saw lots of swans, ducks, and LBBs (little brown birds).  Flowers were pretty much gone for the season and the leaves were now in the process of falling off the trees.  However, still a lovely site and a pretty place to visit.

We wrapped up night two with dinner at the Wooden Monkey and turned in a bit early, as we had an early flight back to the States in the wee hours of the morning.

Day 10 – Massachusetts, New Hampshire (for about 15 min – literally), and finally Maine

We flew into Boston the following morning.  It was nice to be back in the States.  We picked up our rental car and headed up to Portland, Maine to see my best’est of friends.  It was a pretty drive up through Maine, the 15 min of New Hampshire, and the southern portion of Maine.  While it was nice to be back in US soil, we’d used up all of our remaining US money and didn’t think to stop at an ATM in the airport…A word…Tolls.  We lived on the East Coast for many years, and we should have remembered these.  Alas, I think our years away erased the memories of our “Easy Pass” from our minds as we were now back in “Toll Town” as ES called it.   We literally were 10 feet out of the airport and boom – first toll.  I think the toll operators at this booth must hear the same sob story time after time, as he just handed us an envelope and said “no problem, you can mail it in.”  We stopped at the next town where we could find a bank ATM. 


We soon made it up to Portland to JB and SB’s house.  We’d not yet met their little wee one EJ, and were excited to finally see her. 


She was a real charmer and such a sweet disposition. SB and I went to pick up Scout from the airport, as she was flying in for the weekend too.  A mini grad school friends reunion.  It was so great to see everyone, as it had been several years since ES and my wedding that we’d all been together.  We did the usual shrieking all excited and hugs at the airport. 

We cooked out that night, with JB smoking some meat and ES helping.  The lady folks stayed inside and cooked and told stories and just laughed.  It was like time had never passed and we were back in grad school getting together for our usual weekend dinners, except we were eating a lot better (aka real meat) than we used to eat (hot dogs and lots of pasta) back in grad school.  I really cherish these friendships -- good friends who laugh, cry, and will always be there for you 100%.

Day 11 – Portland, Maine

We spent the next morning hanging out at the 3 B’s.  We ate bagels from this really yummy bakery (Sprinkles, I think) in Portland.  JB and ES went out to pick us up some grub while us ladies made coffees and hung out with little EJ and Mrs. S. 

We headed to downtown Portland to walk around and do a little shopping.  Little EJ looked so cute in her little flowered hat and shoes.  We had fun browsing in the downtown shops.



ES, Scout, and I headed to waterfront and took a little walk around the shore.  We saw an old boat launch, some off shore boats, and a little scenic train go by (Scout decided she wanted to chase it).  They waved us to from the train and we even got a whistle.

Day 12 – Portland, Maine

After a return trip to Sprinkles (bagels were just so good), we hung out at the house and had a nice time visiting on Friday.  Scout had to leave mid-day so it was bitter sweet. 

Day 13 – Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts

ES and I spent the morning with SB touring the Portland Headlight.  The lighthouse was quite striking, as was the surrounding rocks.  We only had the morning left for our visit, as we needed to begin the drive back to Boston and wanted to get there before Friday rush hour set in.

Day 14 – Seattle, WA and onwards to home

After a couple weeks of traveling, we hopped back on a plane home and flew to Seattle.  We drove back home and took one more day of rest before heading back to reality (aka work…).

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Snow, Ice, and Sleet - Oh My!

I grew up in snow. Real snow storms. Wyoming snow. The kind that snow feet and they still don't consider cancelling school. I remember skiing (yes - skiing) on our cross-country skis into town when weather hit and staying with friends. It was like camping out, except we still had school. You just knew how to drive, walk, shovel, and generally navigate in the stuff. Only when the winds kicked up and you had complete white outs did things start to get dicey.

Even when we moved to OH and I later to upstate NY, we still have snow. Lots of snow. Lake effect where storms would often be measured in feet. I love the stuff. Cut my teeth driving a 4x4 Bronco II (forerunner to the 1st generation Ford Explorer back when it was the size of the Ford Escape). The stores didn't loose their supplies of bread, milk, and toilet paper.

So I have to chuckle when I see the great lengths that people go to when we get storms here. An inch of snow results in 2 hour delays. Sometimes cancellations. We're supposed to get 4-6 inches tomorrow - Friday. I predict a mass extinction of toilet paper, milk, and bread over the next few days....

Holiday High Lights

It was our year to spend Christmas with my family. Once you couple up, and unless you're lucky enough to have both families within driving distance, chances are you're doing Christmas at various families alternate years. Last December, we spent the last week of the month in Albuquerque, New Mexico with ES' family. NM is beautiful in December and the tradition of putting out lumenarias all over the central plaza in the old part of town (in other towns such as Santa Fe too) is really beautiful. This year, we headed to Vancouver, WA for Christmas with my family. The Portland/Vancouver area is also really pretty during the holidays. The gorge was beautiful as we headed down.

It was so sweet seeing Christmas through the eyes of child. My little nephew, MB is over 3 now. He told me all about Santa and being a good boy and how Santa had "big boots" and "white beard."

We had fun opening our gifts from "Santa". Amazingly, Santa took on many identities that night. We had cold poached salmon, green beans, and cheesy potatoes. Topped off with my mother's famous peanut butter balls and other yummy confections.

We ended the night (and the next few nights) playing Scrabble. I'd gotten ES "Super Scrabble," which is a jumbo board with 2x the tiles. Lots of premium letter spots. ES noted that Scrabble is a blood sport in my family. Very true. Lots of challenges, bluffing, and a little luck. Usually my dad wins, but every now and then someone else wins (what he calls "even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes).

We visited the Grotto the next day, a Shrine in Portland. It was a wickedly cold day, so we all bundled up. As much as we teased my dad about his hat, we were all secretly jealous, as we knew it was keeping him very warm.

We spent our final day down visiting with my brother and his family. ES and I played with their 2 little boys and had a ball. KB made a really yummy lasagne for dinner and cobbler for dessert. We drove back to my parents for our final night. We drove back through snow, reminding us that although the weather may look good 4 days out before you go, you should take the train. December is too fickle in the Gorge.